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President Donald J. Trump is a creature of habits. Flatter him, he’ll flatter you back. Criticize him, he’ll call you fake news and tune you out. His every interaction is transactional. What’s in it for him?
The Greeks might have said Trump suffers from excessive hubris. Nowadays, dozens of psychiatrists have publicly declared the president of the United States to be a malignant narcissist.
At any rate, the leader of the so-called free world, Trump, spends the greater portion of his day conversing with his acolytes on FOX News—Sean Hannity in particular—and tweeting political insults and debunked conspiracy theories to his 65 million Twitter followers.
The White House calls this “executive time,” and it’s obviously Trump’s comfort zone. He bathes in the adulation and confirmation and returns the favor by continuing to appear on FOX News and right-wing talk-radio programs. He’s addicted to Twitter, where his countless bizarre tweets and retweets are amplified by friend and foe alike.
But unbeknownst to Trump, perhaps because he’s far from the stable genius he claims to be, he’s been sucked into a fake news feedback loop that threatens to end his presidency prematurely.
That’s what the whistle blower complaint detailing the events surrounding Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 is all about, and if you haven’t read the nine-page complaint yet, you should do so here.
As the incomplete transcript of the call released by the White House confirmed, Trump literally made Zelensky an offer he couldn’t refuse: Investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s main rivals in the 2020 presidential election, and his son Hunter for alleged corruption in the Ukraine, and Trump would provide Ukraine anti-tank missiles to fight pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas.
You may read the five-page partial transcript of the 30-minute call here.
The alleged corruption concerned Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company. He signed on in 2014, shortly after the Maidan revolution deposed Ukraine’s democratically elected pro-Russian president and replaced him with an anti-Russian president hand-picked by the United States in what some observers, including myself, have called a right-wing coup.
The United States intends to make Ukraine a full-fledged member of NATO and station nuclear-armed missiles on Russia’s borders. That’s why Russia immediately took back possession of the Crimea after Maidan, and that’s why Ukraine is still fighting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
Hunter Biden’s appointment to the Burisma board represented a flagrant conflict of interest, and given his father was the Obama administration’s point-man for fighting corruption in the post-Maidan Ukraine, it was highly controversial at the time.
But according to The Intercept’s James Risen, who covered the story for the Washington Post in real time, the Ukrainian chief prosecutor fired at the urging of Biden was roundly considered corrupt by the U.S. and EU governments and was in part dismissed because he refused to prosecute Burisma.
In other words, Vice President Biden’s threat to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless it fired its corrupt chief prosecutor and replaced him with someone who would investigate rampant corruption could have potentially been harmful to Burisma and board member Hunter Biden, not helpful. That’s evidence nepotism didn’t affect Biden’s decision, at least in this case.
Nevertheless, Trump has become convinced there’s dirt to be had on the Bidens in Ukraine, and the whistleblower’s complaint plainly shows where he got the idea from: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom Trump dispatched to Ukraine last year to investigate the Bidens.
If you’ve seen America’s Mayor on cable news lately, you understand just how bat-shit crazy it is to send someone like Rudy looking for answers in one of the most corrupt and unstable countries on the planet. Ukraine has become a revolving door for indicted oligarchs, bought-off politicians and corrupt prosecutors, who come and go with each regime change.
Sure enough, Rudy found dirt on the Bidens—from the same corrupt chief prosecutor fired at the urging of Joe Biden in 2016, as well as from the chief prosecutor who lost his job after Zelensky was elected president earlier this year. Both men have since backed off their claims that the Bidens were involved in any wrongdoing under scrutiny.
But that hasn’t stopped Trump’s right-wing media bubble from churning and regurgitating the fake news that the Bidens were involved in corruption, Hillary Clinton colluded with the Ukrainians in the 2016 presidential election, and the hacked DNC server is somewhere in Ukraine.
As insane as much of that sounds, that’s what Trump believes too, according to his Ukrainian shake-down call.
In addition to Rudy’s efforts on FOX News and other outlets, the whistleblower points out that The Hill’s John Solomon was instrumental in spreading misinformation obtained from the same tainted Ukrainian sources as Giuliani. Solomon is a frequent guest on Hannity’s TV and radio programs, and dubiously claimed his investigation was entirely independent of Giuliani’s last week on Glenn Beck. The debunked stories are still up on The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based political website.
If it concerns you that Sean Hannity is an unofficial Trump advisor who talks to the president almost every night on the phone and that Rudy Giuliani is on the loose, your worries may soon be over.
Trump’s attempt to shake down a tenuous U.S. ally, offering to trade much-needed weapons in exchange for an investigation into a political rival, doesn’t sit well with the real Deep State, the bipartisan congressional/military/intelligence/industrial complex that determines our foreign policy.
Coming so soon after House Democrats declined to impeach Trump on the numerous allegations of obstruction of justice in the Mueller report, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had no choice but to start a formal impeachment inquiry. Trump might as well have dared her.
If no one stops him from committing high crimes and misdemeanors, he’ll keep right on committing them. He’s proved that.
It’s a shame there’s no 4D chess informing Trump’s recent actions in Ukraine, no stable-minded genius. He was right to question our continued investment in NATO and our belligerent posture toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail four years ago. But muscling Zelensky for his own self-interest doesn’t demonstrate brilliance. It’s blind hubris from a man who cheats to win if he must, even when he’s playing golf with himself.
It’s also a blatantly impeachable offense, but Trump has been sucked into a fake news vortex in which he and his sycophants believe he can do nothing wrong. As I write this, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been drawn into the investigation and more of Trump’s minions are sure to follow. They’re about to find out we’re still a nation of laws and Constitutional checks and balances.
Pretty soon, questions are going to be asked, and they will be answered, despite Trump administration stonewalling. Why did Trump delay hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine shortly before he called Zelensky? Why was the record of the call stored on a top-secret server reserved for covert actions? Why are Trump’s conversations with other world leaders, including Putin and the journalist-dismembering Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Bin Salman, stored on the same secret server?
Inquiring minds want to know, and they will find out. Why did Pompeo deny listening in on Trump’s Ukraine call? Why was our Ukrainian ambassador recalled from her post early? Why have Giuliani and Barr, at the behest of Trump, been galivanting about Europe like a couple of geezers trying to check James Bond fantasies off their bucket lists?
All this and more is going to come out in the inquiry and Trump is well on his way to being impeached by the House. It’s more than a little ironic that the president, who’s made “fake news” his mantra during his short stint in politics, is being taken down by fake news he himself helped create.
It was also inevitable, given Trump’s excessive pride, his malignant narcissism. He’s incapable of taking advice from anyone who disagrees with him. It’s not a desirable characteristic in a commander-in-chief, and whether Trump can survive conviction and removal from office by the Republican-controlled Senate depends entirely on how much of the president’s madness is revealed during the House inquiry.
My guess is we’re heading for an “Et tu, Mitch?” moment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated there will be a Senate trial if Trump is impeached. If the real Deep State gives a thumbs-down on Trump’s impeachment performance, or if it looks like the Republicans might lose the Senate in 2020, he’ll turn on the president like the angry snapping turtle he is.
Trump is doomed, but for many Americans, their long national nightmare will be over. I wouldn’t worry too much about the folks in Hannityville, the cult-like MAGA crowd that supports everything Trump says and does, no matter how repulsive or illegal. There isn’t going to be a civil war if Trump gets removed from office.
Sooner or later, most of Trump’s supporters will come around, even FOX News will be unable to ignore the obvious. The president is unfit for office. It’s entirely possible the few remaining diehards who continue to believe in the fake news broadcast by Rush Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck won’t even notice the president has been removed.
Needless to say, this is going to get extremely ugly, and I blame President Donald J. Trump for putting us through it. I voted for Trump, but quickly realized he was off kilter soon after he took office. I don’t suffer from Trump derangement syndrome; I suffer from Trump fatigue. I’m tired of his nonsense. I’d rather he be defeated in the next election than see America dragged through the impeachment process, and I told him so recently, on Twitter.
“How could you be so dumb?” I asked.
He hasn’t replied.